A Different Trapdoor Rebuild


April 24, 2011, 06:03 AM
I posted a photo of a rebuilt trapdoor on another thread and was asked about it by a couple of members.


Rather than hijack that thread (about conversion revolvers) I decided to post the reply here.

This project ended up entirely different from what I originally intended it to be. I had planned to restore it using original pieces and parts. When I first found the barreled action in my Pops garage, I noticed the muzzle was a bit larger than I expected for a 45-70. I grabbed a 45 ACP round and tested the muzzle. The round fell through the bore all the way to the breech block! A bit of cleaning and I saw on the breechblock "1866" and I realized I did not have an 1873 (or later) barreled action but a Second Allin conversion in 50-70. No problem, I will still restore it. So began a search for parts that got me to meet many interesting folks and see a lot of rifles and parts. Al Frasca (http://www.trapdoorcollector.com/) met with me, and from him I learned more in 30 minutes than I would have in a lifetime of research. He is a truly remarkable individual and possesses a wealth of knowledge about the Springfield trapdoor. His collection is equally as educational.

Anyway, it seems my action started out as a Civil War musket and had the rear of the barrel machined and a swinging breechblock fitted in place. The 58 caliber bore was drilled out and sleeved to 50 caliber. The sleeve was shaped in three steps with the largest diameter at the breech and the smallest at the muzzle. All the work was done with belt driven machinery or hand tools. The barrel was then chambered for the 50-70 cartridge. From the marks on the underside of my particular barrel it was determined that at some point it made the trip to Bannerman's Island Arsenal and was shortened to it present length, just under 29 inches. It may have been sold overseas to a foreign military or it may have stayed in the USA but eventually the lock and stock were removed and lost. The sights were missing also.

Finding the appropriate vintage parts was neither easy nor inexpensive and the project was put to the back burner for a while. A good friend and fellow builder (Mark builds flintlock that are as good as any I have seen anywhere) kept after me about getting it built. When I told him of the expense, he commented "How did they make them originally?" While I was answering him, he interrupted and suggested I find a suitable musket with a blown or damaged barrel. Well, let me tell you, those are not easy to find either! Several years passed and Mark kept chiding me and at one point mentioned the Italians make a reasonable copy of the 1860s Springfield. Well, the light went on above my head. I started looking for a damaged one and once again drew the wrong cards to fill my hand. What I did find, however, was an Italian 1841 Mississippi Rifle with a damaged barrel and a good price. After some dickering, the 1841 came home with me and I started looking for the extra 58 caliber round barrel I had in my barrel bin. (At this point, you may notice I have a couple of irons in the fire and while I passed my IQ test, I tend to think in a linear fashion and don't cross over much.) Not finding the barrel I called Mark to see if he had one. He did not but suggested I "had" one. I assured him differently but he reminded me of the Trapdoor and how it was originally a 58. Okay, this time the light truly glowed above my head and a plan was formed.

I removed the damaged barrel from the stock and stripped the extractor and ejector spring from the TD. Laying the naked barrelled action in the 1841 stock showed how much larger the barrel channel was from the metal. Out comes the bedding compound and I fully bed the TD into the 1841 stock. The tang on the TD is shorter than the tang on the 41 so I fitted a maple dutchman in place and inlet the tang. Next up was to reinstall the ejector spring and extractor, one at a time and inlet them in the stock.

The lock for the Mississippi rifle was different from the lock for the Springfield rifles so I grabbed my miniature hand held milling machine (commonly known as a rattailed file) and proceed to inlet the TD cam into the lockplate. I reattach the hammer to see what I need to do to make it work and see it is not even close to what I need. I doubt if the casting will take the bend I want to do so I cut the hammer nose off and attach an extension. I fashioned the extension from a piece of hex stock and intended it to be a temporary fix. I dovetailed in a front sight with no problems but hesitated about dovetailing a rear sight. I saw the holes were drilled for the original but did not like those options available. Eventually I took a Blank rear sight and reworked the base to fit the round barrel and soldered it in place. I reassembled the whole rifle and looked at it. All the parts fit and the hammer contacted the firing pin but the finish was not what I liked so tear it apart again and go th work on the stock. Using scrapers, I stripped the old finish and stain from the stock and smoothed out the rough spots. I then reshaped the stock to more pleasing lines and removed some of the excess wood and weight. A couple coats of Minwax Hickory stain followed by a few coats of shellac and my base was done. I then grabbed the can of Danish Oil and layed on 5 or 6 coats of it. At that point, I called it done.

I wish I had taken photos of it throughout it’s journey but I did not.

The trapdoor breech is the part of the conversion that allowed the muzzle loading rifle to accept a breech loaded cartridge. The back of the barrel was machined out and a hinge block was screwed and soldered in place. The breechblock was fitted and it swung up and over the barrel like the trapdoor in a floor. Hence the common nickname. Here is a photo of the action closed, I do not have one of it open but will get one for you soon.


The 58 RF and 50-70 rifles and carbines all used leftover musket parts in building the firearms. The 45-70s were built from scratch as centerfire rifles and carbines.


If there is any interest, I can post more photos of the finished rifle. I am not totally pleased with the wood finish and may strip it to restain it darker but I have many other things demanding my time and the rifle does work well as it is.

I have worked up a load and it is a hoot to shoot and not too bad to carry in the field. Maybe I will get a whistle pig with it this year.

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4v50 Gary
April 24, 2011, 09:47 AM
Well, it certainly is different. It's neither fish nor fowl. You've a unique gun that will probably stump people a hundred years from now. To take advantage of the cartridge, it needs a Trapdoor rear sight. If you take it to the range, please share a range report with us. Thanks!

April 24, 2011, 10:49 AM
I think that's just about as cool as it gets. I have an original rifle that was cut down into an ersatz carbine, then re barreled with a premium air Gage barrel, and a 1976 H&R Cavalry Carbine, and of all the guns I own reload for and shoot, I think the Trapdoors are the most fun.

April 24, 2011, 10:51 AM
my original, and my cat...


4v50 Gary
April 24, 2011, 08:39 PM
Beadwork sheath, BHP fan?

April 25, 2011, 02:47 AM
I really love that sheath. Gave away the matching holster, [to a disabled vet] made by Dale Greenwood, Chippewa.

April 25, 2011, 03:00 AM
Trapdoors Galore has stocks, http://www.trapdoors.com/gallery.php?area=stocks but I like Straw Hat's solution more....sort of a ''Gemmmer Trapdoor''.One thing's for sure, I've never seen another.I'd like to build a Trapdoor pistol, someday.

April 25, 2011, 07:23 AM
4v50 Gary ...Well, it certainly is different. It's neither fish nor fowl. You've a unique gun that will probably stump people a hundred years from now. To take advantage of the cartridge, it needs a Trapdoor rear sight. If you take it to the range, please share a range report with us. Thanks!...

I merely adapted what I had and made it work. I wish I had the finances to rebuild it to what it was originally but then it would have negated some of the history the piece acquired over it life. (As an aside, I have the same dilemna when asked to "reconvert" a percussion gun to flintlock.)

I soldered a simple rear sight on the barrel as I do not see this being one of my long range rifles. Having grown up learning to use simple sights, it is easy for me to hold into the wind or to hold over or under for shots longer or shorter than what I have the load sighted for. I cheerfully admit, adjustable sights are easier to use but I did not have a set available when I assembled this Frankentrapdoor. If it proves itself at longer ranges, maybe a rear sight swap is in it's future.

I had it out last summer. I loaded 20 rounds with GOEX 2F, the Lee 515-450 bullet, beeswax and olive oil lube on the bullet and a grease cookie between bullet and powder. My grease cookies were a thicker version of my lube between two cereal carton wads. (I used a Wheaties box, hoping the "champions" idea would rub off on the loads!) I use the first 10 rounds to sight in. The first 3 got my windage on the 50 yard target and the remaining 7 rounds got me where I needed to be on the 100 yard paper. Once I am sighted in to my satisfaction, I rarely shoot paper unless I change the load. Next trip out, I took the remaining 10 rounds and walked a friends property shooting at cans, rocks and stumps to get used to the rifle and load. Estimating distances is necessary with a 50-70, moreso than the flatter shooting 45-70. I was able to hit much of what I aimed at and am confident this is a good hunting rifle. I have a Lyman 515450 mold and am looking to buy a hollow base bullet mold for this rifle. The bullets from these three molds will all weigh about the same and it would be nice if they were to shoot into the same group but I am not holding my breath on that. If they do, great but more than likely I will have to decide which bullet is going to be the workhorse and sight in with that one.

I practice with a rifle the way I intend to hunt with it. Walking, stalking and taking shots from field positions, usually offhand or sitting. I have used shooting sticks and tree limbs but found the sticks were not as easy to carry around as I would have liked and tree limbs rarely grow at the proper height for me, so I have learned to depend on my shooting to fill the freezer. And shooting this way, I can learn more about a rifle with 10 shots than by sitting at a range for the day. It works very well for me and I am glad I stepped away from the competition aspect of shooting when I did.

This summer, I may get it out again and see how it works on chipmunks and groundhogs. Maybe in the fall, I will go after a deer or two.

April 25, 2011, 07:28 AM
BHP FAN ....sort of a ''Gemmmer Trapdoor''...

I have seen two Gemmer built rifles on Trapdoor actions. One 50-70 the other was a small bore 45-70. On both rifles he did an amazingly good job of blending the cartridge gun with the Hawken style of rifle. The work was well done and it was the simplicity of the two pieces I liked. Both used the original round barrels (I have since heard he tended to use the origianal Springfield barrels) and simple furniture. There is a fellow on another forum that has built a couple of Gemmer styled trapdoors, very well done.

April 25, 2011, 10:25 AM
Well I like yours. I applaud the use of simple sights, I took off a vernier tang sight some goober had installed on my 1884, and installed an 1873 carbine rear sight on it. I only use the ''battle sight'' and the 200 yard part of the ladder [1st position when you flip up the ''ladder''] and find that a lot of adjustments simply mean a lot of variables. If you know where your gun and your load shoot, you're better off than all the fancy sights in the world. All in all, I think you have a great gun there.I admire your revolver as well, even if it's not a Remington, LOL! Also, I got a chuckle out of your description of the .45-70 as ''flatter shooting'' ! I realize it's a relative term, but it was still the first time Id seen ''flatter shooting'' to describe the rainbow trajectory of my old .45-70!

Phantom Captain
April 25, 2011, 10:36 AM
Wow StrawHat!

That's really different and cool. Thanks for taking the time to put that up and explain what you did. It's a very interesting build I have to say. Never seen a Mississippi trapdoor that's for sure! I like it though. Very unique in my eyes. It's got to be pretty satisfying to do your own conversion!

April 26, 2011, 06:35 AM
Phantom Captain ...Wow StrawHat! ... It's got to be pretty satisfying to do your own conversion!

It just means I am too cheap to pay for work I can do myself. Otherwise I would not be able to afford any of the fun "toys". But in the long run, it is very satisfying to be able to take something and return it to a functioning piece. And while I have never seen an original 1841 Mississippi done like this, it doesn't mean other muskets were not converted. If one took an 1861 Springfiled and switched out the parts, how would you tell?

April 26, 2011, 06:04 PM
Good point. The originals were made from old muskets we had on hand, so yours is, too.

February 6, 2012, 02:19 PM
There was one thing about that rifle that annoyed me and that was the way the stock turned out. I chose a Minwax stain, "Hickory" and was anticipating something darker. Long story short, (I know, too late), I finally got tired of the stock color and stripped it. A couple hours af work with hand planes, spokeshaves and scrapers had it back to bare wood.


Then I mixed up some walnut stain using alcohol and walnuts I saved last fall. Just poured the alcohol over the walnuts and husks and let it sit for a few days. The longer it sits, the darker it gets. And if it evaporates some, that makes it darker also. Two coats of stain and then I really screwed up. When the stain was dry, I gave it a coat of Danish Oil but before it could cure, the temperature dropped to below freezing and the oil puddled all over the stock. So, once again I stripped the stock and restained it. When I felt the temp was going to stay around 50 for a few days, I gave it a very light coat of oil and left it to cure. I turned my attention to the barrel. Most of the 50 caliber Trapdoors left the Armory with bright barrels and browned (blued) breechblocks. No problem, using various grits of paper I buffed the barrel to a nice bright sheen. Not a total mirror because it is old and there are variuos nicks, gouges and scratches on it but a nice sheen. Two coats of wax and I reassembled the rifle.


Come spring, I may give it another coat of oil or may just wax it all and call it done, until I decide I need to change it.

February 7, 2012, 08:42 AM
very interesting project. About two years ago, there was a Zouave repro with a snider action for sale on a European gun auction site.

February 8, 2012, 10:00 AM
Straw, would you be willing to mentor someone in the arcane arts of trapdoor restoration? That is if they can actually get the shop that has a raggedy, cut down 66 allin conversion to sell it for a realistic price.

February 8, 2012, 04:45 PM
I stopped in a gun shop back around 1980 and I was always looking for guns I could fix. I saw a gun leaning in the corner and the owners son, said that old thing. It is supposed to be 45-70 but somebody reamed out the chamber. I looked at it and it clearly was beat to crap and had a lined bore. The son, about 25 to 30, sold it to me for $25.00 Second Allin. But the dimensions lead me to believe it is a cadet. A bit thinner than a normal second Allin and the lined bore.

February 9, 2012, 12:52 PM
This is my go to site when I need info on Trapdoors or just want to refresh my memory.


Another site I recently stumbled on is similar.


I have an 1873 (built in 1878) chambered in the smaller, flatter shooting 45-70 cartridge. This summer I hope to get out with it but the FrankenTrapdoor is one of my favorites.

Phantom Captain
February 9, 2012, 01:52 PM
I think it looks awesome!

Totally love it. I like your stain and finish way better than what it was previously.

Super, super cool.

February 9, 2012, 08:34 PM
Thank you, Yeah, the chestnut stain was handy and different. And it looked a lot darker when I used it on another piece of wood. But, it is always an option to refinish something and eventually, I will take care of things that bug me.

I think it looks a lot better with the nearly black stain on it.

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